My Protein Powder and Bars Hit and Miss List

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Protein Powders I Dislike:

  • Quest – it was through quest that I realized how sensitive I was to whey because it made me throw up (literally)
  • Shakeology – flavor is just okay, is not anything special for the price point. I hate that they air on the side of advertising as a meal rather than a supplement

Protein Powders I Like:

  • Vega Sport Recovery – doesn’t bake well but is great in smoothies and shakes
  • The Natural Citizen – SUPER clean ingredient list and I love the company, but I prefer a powder that has a little more flavor
  • PE Science Vegan – bakes well and mixes well, good price point! I prefer their chocolate to their vanilla.
  • SunWarrior – Recently tried samples of their new formula in my Raw Box. I loved the chocolate and the vanilla!

Protein Powders I Love:

  • Nuzest – flavors are all so on point! Love the taste, consistency and that it bakes as well as it mixes in smoothies. My stomach handles this protein very well. I love them so much that I partnered with them for a coupon code FITGIRLK8! I usually just get the vanilla but their cappuccino is a favorite of mine as well, especially for oatmeal
  • Sprout Living – love their protein and love the company, isn’t something that I buy regularly though just due to price point.
  • Garden of Life – I order this off of Vitacost and love how it bakes and mixes. Stomach handles this well

Protein Bars I Dislike:

  • Luna – I just don’t really like these honestly.
  • Health Warrior – did not care for the flavor or the consistency of these at all.
  • Vega Protein and Greens – way too ‘green’ for me

Protein Bars I Like:

  • Rx Bars – NOT VEGAN* I don’t eat these any more but before I was vegan I really loved these. If you are not vegan or are trying to move away from whey, these would be a great option as the protein in these comes from egg whites. Love their slogan as well.
  • D’s Natural – lots of protein and good consistency, some of the flavors are a little meh though. I don’t regularly buy these.
  • Zing Bars – remind me a lot of square bars but a little chewier which I like. They have minis and full sizes and all of their flavors are really good. I don’t have them on my LOVE list because they are really sweet and I try to steer clear of a  lot of sugars.
  • Lenny and Larry’s Cookies – they are really super yummy but their nutritional content isn’t awesome. I hate that it is 2 servings per one cookie and I don’t feel like they are super clear about that. They are also currently involved in a lawsuit that they may not be fully vegan and may have fibbed about the amount of protein in their products.

Protein Bars I Love:

  • Squarebars – my favorite flavor is the almond spice followed closely by the coconut. These curb my chocolate cravings as well as offer a protein punch. They are so good on their own or cut up for toppings for nicecrea or oatmeal. FITGIRLK8 is an active coupon, let me know if you use it! Free US shipping, too!
  • GoMacro – love Go Macro bars! Consistency is good, they ARE chewy but I really like that. It isn’t the kind of chewy that destroys your jaw. They even have minis if you just want a small snack. Super filling!
  • Perfect Bars – they have one vegan flavor and I LOVE it. I really hope they consider rolling out more vegan options. Consistency is my faaavorite! They keep these refrigerated so if you get frustrated trying to find them, check in that section of your market!

Macros

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What is a macro? “Macros” is a term for macronutrients. There are macro- and micronutrients in everything that we eat. When you hear someone say that they are tracking their macros, that means they are tracking how many carbohydrates, fats and proteins they are getting throughout the day. You or someone else will set your macros based on your age, activity level, goals and current body composition in a mathematic equation that spits out your totals for each group. Typically macros will look something like ‘60/40/20’ and that means 60% coming from carbs, 40% coming from protein and 20% coming from fats – and like I said, that number is different for each person as we are all different. Your macros will fluctuate as your body changes. You don’t bother with calories as the fiber content and other factors can effect caloric density and you just focus on the macro count in everything that you consume. This can be tracked easily on apps like My Fitness Pal and always with a food scale. You will also hear this referred to as 'flexible dieting'.

Why did you start in the first place? Competitive bodybuilders use macro counting to ensure that their body composition is in peak condition on the day that they compete. They “bulk” and gain a lot of muscle and then cut back or "lean out" as competition nears to shed fat and let their muscles pop out. I don’t have a desire to compete but I did have a desire to change my body composition. I was “skinny fat” meaning that I had lost a lot of weight (60 pounds) but still had a higher body fat percentage than I wanted to. Basically, I wasn’t building a lot of muscle. I found that I was undereating for an extended period of time and so my body wasn’t retaining muscle gains (my body was basically eating muscle instead of growing muscle) 

Did it work? Yes. I saw drastic changes in my body composition in a positive way. I learned a lot that allowed me to have a healthier relationship with food – I wasn’t afraid to eat more thinking that I would gain weight back. I stopped being wary of certain foods and just saw food as nourishment. I also got a lot out of using the food scale. I was amazed at what a true serving size looked like with some things (like fruit!) and was pleasantly surprised by others (I was always so skimpy with my nut butters and came to realize I wasn’t even using a whole serving) This also gave me a really good foundation and understanding of nutrition that I wouldn't have otherwise gotten. 

Why did you stop? I have a tendency towards obsessive behavior. Counting calories and counting macros are both essentially the same thing. They are both diets. You are restricting what you eat. You are placing restrictions on yourself to change something about your body. Now, for some people that is absolutely fine and they have a healthy relationship with food and their body and it is a great addition to their routine. I just found myself overanalyzing my body, not allowing myself to eat things because it didn’t “fit”, etc. It was really, really time-consuming. I was spending so much time planning out my meals and making sure everything fit my macros. It just got to be overwhelming and was causing me to have a really obsessive and negative feeling around my fitness and my health. (I also hate math, and it is a lot of math.)

It also takes the focus away from important micronutrients. A lot of the “IIFYM” (if it fits your macros) community raves about how they can eat cookies, ice cream, cakes and donuts and it totally fits their macros – and it DOES. But what is that doing to their insides? Where are they getting their vitamins and things that make you truly healthy? I was really turned off by that aspect especially as someone who is educated on the health benefits of plant sources and the detriments of pre-packaged foods. 

Would you recommend trying it? Yes IF you think you have a healthy relationship with food or think that some of the tools from macro tracking could help you for a short time, do it! It is educational. It is a very efficient and effective way to shed body fat (or bulk, depending on your goals) The food scale will definitely help you understand portion if you struggle with that. It’s nice because you can take the tools you learn and continue use even after you stop officially tracking. Once you get an understanding of how it works you can even start setting your own macros. It can also help you realize that one food group or type of food is not BAD. A donut has the same macro value as something healthier etc. so it does teach you that you don’t have to deprive yourself of treats to make progress.

What are you doing now? I am intuitively eating, if you want to label it. I have been for a few months now. But really, it just feels like I am trying to be my healthiest self. I now know how much I need to feel satiated and have a good idea of how many meals I need per day and at what times I get hungry. This is something you learn with experimenting and with time. Be patient with your body. I eat a whole foods, plant based diet. I eat when I am hungry and I stop when I am full. I am now at a place where I just eat healthy because I enjoy it, I don’t have to obsess about what is about to go into my mouth day in and day out. If I find a recipe on Minimalist Baker or Oh She Glows that sounds really good to me, I make it. I eat it. I ENJOY it. Tracking macros was not fun for me and I just want to let you know that if any part of your life is causing you unhappiness in any way, fix that shit. You do not have to track anything to meet your goals, you can. But you absolutely do not have to. My personal suggestion is always to educate yourself, look into changing your diet to include more whole foods from plant sources. 

Are you worried that you won’t be able to meet your goals? Sometimes. Lately, I have been feeling comparison creep in as I watch other girls start to cut and get leaner for summer. I know that I would like to be a little thinner for bikini season and I let doubt creep in just like anyone else. But I just keep focusing on what makes me happy and challenging myself to be better every day. Body obsession is a distraction that keeps us from living in the fullness of our being. I will make a disciplined effort to increase my cardio and be more mindful of snacking, but do not ever feel pressured to follow a plan that you know is not healthy for you personally. One thing that you have to realize and get through your head is that every single body is different. One person may hold their fat in their legs and one person may hold their fat in their stomach and one person may hold their fat in their arms. And each one of those people is probably self-conscious about that and wishing they looked like the person standing next to them.

Hope this helps and answers some questions that you may have had and, as always, feel free to ask me anything!

How to find confidence in the gym?

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How did I find confidence in the gym?

I just had to try. I had to feel really uncomfortable and anxious and just do it anyway. I just had to start showing up. It definitely was not graceful or easy. I watched a lot of YouTube videos to make sure I understood the form and I went in with a written plan of exactly what workouts I wanted to tackle.

I found that having a gym buddy to share the comfortability with was key, you just need that support those first few times and then you will feel like a pro! If you don’t have a gym buddy, ask one of the trainers to walk you through the first time or two… seriously!  

I also studied my own gym and found the busy times and realized gym is super dead on Friday evenings, so I always go on Friday evenings. This is where I can try new things and take up as much space as needed and I don’t feel like I am being watched or judged because there is basically no one there.

It can be intimidating to start a routine in the weight room, especially when it is filled with huge men who clearly call this their second home. You have just as much of a right to be there as they do. They all started as beginners. Do not ever forget that you must begin in order to succeed.  

It is NEVER easy to try new things or go to new places, especially if you have a tendency towards social anxiety like I do. Know that you can go as slowly as you need, but that you must do things that scare you. It is in this way that you will grow and learn that you can do those scary things and you can be all that you wanted to be, and more!

My Fitness Journey

I realized that most of you probably haven’t been following along on my journey through Instagram from the start so you may be confused as to what my path has been. I want to share with you my fitness journey and kind of how I ended up ‘here’.

I come from a very loving upbringing. But, my dad was not present in my life. When I turned 18 he totally abandoned any semblance of a relationship that we had had. This left me feeling unlovable, unwanted and broken. If the one man that was supposed to love you first, best and unconditionally couldn’t love me…well, what did that say about me? I was too young and too hurt to understand then that it had nothing to do with me. I went to university and I partied hard (but still graduated with honors, don’t get it twisted). I was in and out of a few serious relationships but mostly cheated on all of them. I got really heavy and then I lost the weight and was with someone that I loved SO much. But it was SO toxic. I was so toxic. I still drank a lot, I loved to party. I let that control who I was. I created fights, I perpetuated them. I was skinny, but I was unhealthy. I was skinny, but I was self-conscious. I was skinny, but it was not nearly enough. When that relationship ended, I found it difficult to breathe, to get out of bed, to think. It took weeks for me to be myself again. As time went on, I went about healing and finding myself and loving myself. Through this process, I gained a lot of weight. Through this process, I met a new byfriend and I was content to just stay at home with him. I was content to go to work, leave work, go home and lay on the couch.

My "starting point" April 2015

My "starting point" April 2015

 

Then something just clicked on. I was tired of crying in the closet. I was tired of not wanting to do things for fear of being seen. I found the 28 Day Jumpstart from Fit Girl’s Guide and I made a fitness Instagram to document my journey. I started with the food only and with incorporating walking into my every day. I believe it was 2 rounds before I really started doing the workouts but still I saw a lot of progress. For me, it’s easier to tackle one thing at a time. I then moved to their other cookbooks and even went through their Bootcamp program and saw awesome progress. This all led to huge physical changes. But most importantly? The internal changes. Those I could write a book about (and maybe I have something up my sleeve) but please understand that you have to shift your focus from the external to the internal. That is the only way to have true and lasting change.

I realized after doing so much calorie restrictions that I was getting very small and still wasn’t feeling satisfied. I would be hungry and binge-eat because my body was calling out for sustenance. This is when I moved away from FGG and started looking into macro tracking. I learned a lot through this process about how food is food. I learned a lot about portion sizes that was very beneficial and I also healed from viewing calories as this singularly important thing. I then moved away from that because it was still triggering obsessive behaviors and finally decided to just eat intuitively. What that means is that I am now really familiar with my body and what it needs, so I know when I am hungry and how much food I need to be satisfied. I eat when hungry, stop when full. I no longer place this huge stress on my body like I did for years about food. I could not tell you the last time I binged. I could not tell you the last time that I felt deprived. It is SO freeing and so wonderful to be at this place in my life.

As I found that my body felt better and responded better to a whole foods, plant based diet I continued with the intuitive eating. I went fully vegan on May 1st of 2016. I will speak lots more about this as I continue to blog, but just know that if you have ever considered going plant-based, you can absolutely reach out to me for guidance! It was one of the very best decisions I have EVER made for my health.

 

Today, I use a variety of workout routines. A lot of which come from Keep Going Kat because I love her loose approach. Nothing is one size fits all and she understands and nurtures that notion. I have found a great balance between lifting, HIIT and still going to spin class (which I love) one or two times per week. I just think it is important to try new things, experiment, listen to your body and then DO THE THINGS THAT YOU LIKE TO DO. I have found so much joy in lifting and what it does for my body, but I still also love to spin it out and get my heart worked out as well. Find your balance, whatever that looks like. It won’t look the same as it does for me or for anyone else.

It has been quite a journey for me and I want to continue to share my struggles and triumphs with you.

You are worth putting in the time and the effort to live your happiest and healthiest life.